Sunday, July 28, 2013

Playing catchup again

Tende, July 23, 2013—

Something new to me tonight in a casual gîte in this out-of-the-way corner of France: a Greek "Caprese," I think: : watermelon, feta, raw res onion sliced thin, and lots of basil. Then a nice saumon en papillotte with potatoes; cheese; and — what! Profiteroles au chocolat? Delicious!
     Rosé en pichet
• Gîte les Carlines, Tende

Lac des Mesches, Tende, July 24, 2013—

Eating in another table d'hôte refuge tonight: soupe des legumes, cod steaks in a light cream sauce, rice, mirepoix des legumes, salad and cheeses, île flottante.
     Rosé en pichet

• Réfuge Neige et Merveilles, Tende

Sospel, July 25, 2013—

We found a particularly pleasant little bistro on the "other" side of the river, where i was happy as a clam with this quite delicious little beef tartare à la couteau. The house-made peach tart was another delight. One of the real finds on this trip!
     Rosé en pichet

• Soutt'a Loggia5, pl. saint-Nicolas, Sospel

Menton, July 26, 2013—

Still in search of the perfect fish soup, I asked the hotelkeeper for advice — perhaps a good idea, perhaps not. The result was just average, but average, on this coast, is still above average. 
     Rosé en pichet

• La Couille d'Or1, quai Bonaparte, Menton

Menton, July 27—

We returned to a modest place I enjoyed five years ago and I had this excellent salade Mentonnaise, followed by an outstanding plate of bresaola:

 With parmesan, olives, and lemon, and first-rate olive oil to pour over it all.

• Don Ciccio11, r St Michel, Menton

THEN IT WAS ON to Nice, where my light supper was fish soup followed by fruit compôte. The soup's not bad, I told the waiter, is it made in house? No, he smiled, That's why it's not bad. I liked him: he'd made no fuss when I'd asked for a clove of garlic to scratch on the toasts.
     Rosé en pichet

• 2 Palmiers15, bd Victor Hugo

Nice, July 28—

Lunch in a tourist restaurant right in the market, where we all know you're unlikely to get really good or authentic fare. Oh well. I ordered fish soup, you'll be surprised to hear, and it came with impossible little stale toasts, overly saffroned aïoli, grated cheese, no rouille, and no garlic. When I asked for a clove, There's garlic in that, the waitress sniffed, pointing at the aïoli. I know that, I said, but I'd like to have a clove of garlic, if you please. Much later she returned with a little bowl of minced garlic. The salade Niçoise I had next was too big, too full of overcooked green beans, and devoid of anchovies. 

• Chez Freddy, 22, cours Saleya, Nice

Monday, July 22, 2013

Two local favorites

Nice, July 22, 2013—

TOMORROW WE HIT the trail again; who knows what or how we'll be eating. Today let's return to familiar tables. 

Lunch in the Vielle Ville, then, after an hour browsing the flea market, to no profit. We began with this little assiette of panisses, chick-pea-flour sticks peppered and deep-fried. 

I then went on to my bowl of fish soup, which I would willingly have five days a week: fish of at least two varieties, only salt-water fish, and a few extra heads and tails if you can get them, simmered until tender with a bouquet garni and a splash of Pernod, run through a food mill, and served with toasted baguette slices which you scrub with raw garlic, heap rouille on, and cover with grated cheese, Gruyère by preference.
          Rosé en pichet
• da Acchiardo, 38 Rue Droite, Nice; 04 93 85 51 16

Dinner was at the local restaurant Chuck and Dominique introduced us to last week. The menu offers only two choices for each of the three courses, and mine were foie gras with poached apricots served with a slice of delicious toasted raisin rye bread, and
pieces of veal, stuffed with tomato and a little bit of mozzarella, flavored with thyme, garlic, and basil,and  served with quartered artichokes cooked al dente. One of the best dishes I've had; truly inspired. No dessert needed.
          Minervois, Château Cabezac "La Garrigue," 2011

• Restaurant Côté Sud, 2 Rue du Professeur Maurice Sureau, Nice; 04 93 01 36 40

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Another Niçoise

Nice, July 21, 2013—

We stopped midday at a pizzeria, where I ordered a salade Niçoise and my companion ordered. Pizza Napolitana. We were sitting at a sidewalk table, but I heard the waitress yell the orders to the cook, and then I heard the cook yell something incomprehensible back. Before long a different waiter was at our table, with the menus again: who ordered the pizza? 

We straightened that out, and then he apologized, and said Cook couldn't make a Napolitana, we could have any other pizza. Why can't we have a Napolitana, I not unreasonably wanted to know. The waiter mumbled something I couldn't catch about not having something. I hardly understood his French and switched to Italian:

Cos'e che non c'e nella cucina? What is it the kitchen doesn't have?

Acciughe, the waiter admitted. He doesn't have any anchovies.

What, no anchovies? And he's going to give me a salade Niçoise? What kind of a Niçoise will that be, with no anchovies?

Well, the waiter said, you could have something else on it…

What's going to replace anchovies? Nutella, maybe? Cornichons?

In the end I acquiesced, of course, and yet another waiter showed up, to set before me the  anchovyless salad, with bright yellow kernels of corn strewn through it. 

Wait a minute, I said, this is a salade Niçoise? Where are the anchovies?

The waiter looked at the salad, first with sudden interest, then with total dismay. He started to carry the salad away.

Wait! Where are you going with my salad?

It isn't finished, he said, I'm taking it back to the kitchen…

No! Wait! Bring it back! The kitchen, it doesn't have any anchovies!

I see that, he said, it doesn't have any anchovies, they forgot them, I'll take it back…

No! You don't understand! There… are… no… anchovies… in… the… kitchen!

He brought the salad back and set it down, smiling. Ah, he said. I see. No anchovies.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Du Gesu

Nice, january 20, 2013—

WE DINED INSIDE: this place is popular, and the large terrace was full. As you see, plenty of light nonetheless. And why choose Du Gesu? Well, on the weekends many Nice restaurants are closed, and for a popular Vielle Ville spot, it looked simple and perhaps fairly authentic 

My salade Niçoise did sport an irrelevant vertical radish holding aloft a single olive, but was otherwise perfectly acceptable, and a plate of red peppers in oil was refreshing. 

Perhaps the île flottante was a little extravagant. But it's a favorite dessert of mine, meringue in custard, reminding me always of my mother and her big Pyrex baking dish…
Rosé en pichet

• Restaurant du Gesu, 1, rue du Jésus, Nice; 04 93 62 26 46

Friday, July 19, 2013


St.-Dalmas Valdeblore, July 19, 2013—

WELL, NOT EXACTLY steack-frites: as you see, always conscious of good nutrition, I substituted mesclun for the fries. Here's a typical French faux-filet, then, roughly speaking a sirloin, nicely grilled saignant, and another advantage of having ordered the salad was its accompanying olive oil: a drizzle on the beef, and a little salt, and I was a happy hiker.

Côtes du Rhône en pichet

• Brasserie de la Balme, St. dalmas, Valdeblore; 04 93 02 80 02

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A local favorite

Nice, July 18, 2013—

WHERE TO HAVE lunch today? I resorted to a method that's oftened rorked for me, and stepped into a butcher shop that obviously served a local clientele. (Tourists are unlikely to be buying steaks and chops and veal livers.) is ther a good restaurant around here for real food?

Both butchers grinned, apparently glad to be asked: Right dowm the street, on the left, next to the church. So back we went, with information, to the place we'd found by chance yesterday. I looked at all the possibilities, many of them enticing, and decided to go with the day's menu: canneloni, with nice Bolognese, and a mesclun salad. Keep it simple, now and then.
          Rosé en pichet
• da Acchiardo38 Rue Droite, Nice; 04 93 85 51 16

And dinner "at home," found in the fridge and the cupboards, as we all go various ways tomorrow morning, and its time to clean things out…

Another catchup

July 13, 2013: Dinner. 
 A very good pumpkin/squash soup; pork cutlets flavored lightly with cumin in cream sauce, wheat pilaf with peas and mirepoix of peppers, celery, and something else I forget; fromage blanc with apricots.
                        vin ordinaire en pichet
• Réfuge Ma Vielle École, Roya, Alpes-Maritimes

July 14, 2013: we celebrated both Stefan's birthday and Bastille Day with a long all-day hike, culminating in a half-hour dash throigh thunder, lightning, and hail, in a cowshed refuge, with (besides the hosts) a French couple from Lille, a young Danish man and his younger sister, a Flemish couple from Antwerp,and  five or six middle-aged Genovese. Collectibely we managed to recall most of the words to La Marseillaise, and we ate  Pissaladière, pork steaks in tomato sauce, potatoes, and very good very local cheese.
                        vin ordinaire en pichet
• Vacherie de Roure (otherwise known as the Réfuge de Longon), Roure, Alpes-Maritimes

July 15, 2013:  lunch and dinner in a very old-fashioned hotel where we rested en pension: a delicious salad of tomatoes, lettuces, diced boiled ham, and a fine crisp raw spring onion, with blanquette de veau and a slice of pineapple–coconut cake for dessert at midday; tabouli and ravioli for our simpler supper.
                        vin ordinaire en pichet
• Relais d'Auron, St-Sauveur-le-Tinée, Alpes-Maritime

July 16, 2013: bad weather forces a temporary suspension of the Long Walk, and we are in Nice. Lunch: socca — chickpea crepes sprinkled with black pepper — and various tapenades and pissaladière and lemon tarte at a very nice place down by the port.
                        vin ordinaire en pichet
• Chez Pipo, 13, rue Bavastro, Nice; 04 93 55 8882 
Dinner near our temporary apartment here: a composed salad involving asparagus, lettuces, hardcooked ?duck egg, and a few other things; then lotte in cream sauce, with good Camargue rice. 
                        rosé, Chateau des Annibals (Var), ?2012
Restaurant Côté Sud, 2 Rue du Professeur Maurice Sureau, Nice; 04 93 01 36 40

July 17, 2013: Lunch in the vielle ville at a place found by chance, where I finally had my always-longed-for soupe de poissons: the day's catch, boiled down with various flavoring agents (include pastis in that!).

Dinner in nearby La Gaude, at a friend of a friend's, a generous, intelligent, serene, benign presence who likes nothing more than cooking for, hosting, and enjoying a company of criends and conversationalists. We had panisses, and grilled sardines, and cold squid salad, and pockled fresh porcini someone had brought, and short ribs off the grill, amd salad, and tomatoes green beams carrots potatoes courgettes, and delicious bread; and a few dozenfresh  chevres someone had brought from a neighboring fromagerie; and Eric made a couple of delicious clafoutis, and someone else a big chocolaye mousse, and there were meringues and a few bottles of rosé. We got home late.

Friday, July 12, 2013


St.-Etienne-de-Tinée, July 12, 2013—

HARD TO BELIEVE that it's a week since I've posted here.  Walking in the Alps, the rhythm of each day is so similar that you lose track of time. It's wake at six or so, get up, get ready, have breakfast, walk a few hours uphill, maybe eat a power bar or a sandwich you've brought along, walk downhill, maybe up and down a second time, fall into a gîte or réfuge, rest maybe with a beer, eat whatever they give you for dinner, stretch out your sleeping sack, fall fast asleep.

So here is the account of the last week. I'm sorry it's so sketchy. My photos will fill things out, but not until I get to a real computer. 

July 7, 2013: we were in a gîte that promised nothing at all on first meeting, but turned out to serve a perfectly nice dinner. Spaghetti al pesto; zucchini frittata; roast pork; salad; panna cotta flavored with pastis. It was so nice finally to taste garlic! How I have missed it!
vin ordinaire en pichet

•Réfuge CAF, Maljasset, France

July 8, 2013: we made up for previously missing meals by having two. Lunch: a plate of charcuterie — is anything better than ham with butter, or paté with cornichons? And then an omelette with wild mushrooms.
vin ordinaire en pichet

Dinner: vegetable potage; beef Bourgignon on good Italian rice, salad (I do wish these people would dry the lettuce); cheeses; apple tarte.
vin ordinaire en pichet

• Gîte Les Granges, Fouillouse, France

July 9: lentils, tomatoes, grated carrots, turkey breast in cream sauce
vin ordinaire en pichet

• Gîte GTALarche, Alpes-de-Hte.-Provence

July 10: A meatless meal, first we've had, at a refuge that on reflection may have been Buddhist. 
vin ordinaire en pichet
• Gîte d'étape, Bousiéyas, Alpes-Maritimes

July 11: dinner in a restaurant I recalled from five years ago. I opened with an assiette montagnard: charcuterie, pickled mushrooms, toast with tapenade, and whatnot. Afterward, duck breast with figs, pilaf, petits pois, and a tomato gratinée. Dessert was admirable: marron glacé pudding topped with toasted sugared almonds, with almond-milk ice cream.
vin ordinaire en pichet

• Restaurant l'ÉtoileSt-Dalmas-le-Selvage, Alpes-Maritimes

July 12: a curious dinner in a huge hall with many vacationing groups, some families, some employee associations. We started with a platter of cold cuts and cheese toasts on nice crisp local lettuce, then went on to elbow macaroni in very light tomato sauce with ground beef patties. Dessert was an apple tart.
vin ordinaire en pichet

• Village de Vacances Le Rabuons, St-Étienne/de-Tinée, Alpes-Maritimes

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cuisine marocaine

La Chalp, France, July 5, 2013—

A very nice table d'hôte dinner tonight, the hôte seated at the head of the table, where his wife the cook joined him after the service of the main course. 

She apologized that the paté was store-bought, but assured us it was from a very good charcutière, and it was in fact delicious, a mixture of hare and pork, perfectly textured, with a nice little mâche salad and, of course, cornichons.

Our hosts have travelled a lot, and she has brought recipes home with her — including this fine tagine, I suppose, of lamb, prunes, and who knows what else, with fine-grained couscous, and a cucumber relish.

Cheese next: I contented myself with Emmenthaler and a local tomme. And then — how amusing to hear French people pronounce the word "crumble."

Myrtille crumble, in this case, if I'm not mistaken, with a scoop of ice cream. Familiar and very welcome.

Vin rouge en pichet

• Chalet Viso, la Chalp

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Encore Provence…

Villard St. Pancrace, France, July 4, 2013—

THIS SALAD of good fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and a few basil leaves may sound like a Caprese to you, but to me it was one more indication we're on our way to Provence. The next course led further credence: zucchini and eggplant, stuffed with ground beef and cooked in tomato confit. Only the tomme melted on the spaghetti-cooked-under-the-fire suggested we were still near Savoy.

Emmental, brie, and Roquefort; then apricot clafouti. Conversation with two delightful ladies from Antwerp, also trekking the GR5. No complaints.

Vin rouge ordinaire en pichet

• Gîte le Bois de Barracan, Villard St. Pancrace

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Briançon, July 3, 2013—

ODD, HOW A FEW miles, and a couple of hours' walk, can seem to take you from one land to another — in this case, from Piemonte, or next thing to it, to Provence.

Yesterday we dined in Montgénèvre, not one of my favorite towns, but there we were. My dinner was this tartare, not very beautiful, I know, but rather delicious. It wasn't Piemontese beef, alas; in fact it was Spanish, for some reason, but it was very good, and the salad was too, and even the fries.

Today, on the other hand, we're technically in Provence. I had a Salade Niçoise for lunch, on the main street here, and it was just okay — though I have to say it was a pleasure to taste anchovies, and a hint of garlic.

Dinner, though, was off the main street, as our hotelkeeper helpfully suggested we should do: a fine duck confit, and much better fries, and then a salad whose leaves were not watery as they had been at lunch. 

Wine, as usual, of the house…

• Restaurant le Jamy, Montgénèvre
Le Gavroche, 40, Grande Rue, Briançon
• Le Rustique, 36, rue du pont d'Asfeld, Briançon

Monday, July 1, 2013

Refuge and Gîte

Dining room, Auberge la Cleiade

Auberge la Cleiade, Plampinet, France, July 1, 2013—

LAST NIGHT WE DINED in a refuge, fairly high in the French Alps. You Eat what you're given, with the strangers seated next to you, and you're grateful — if only because, having hiked a number of miles and climbed a number of feet, you're hungry. We had pea soup; slaw with various raw vegetables in it; couscous with cubed pork stewed in tomato sauce, and a brownie. I ate every last bit. 

Côtes de Rhône en pichet

• Refuge de Thabor

TODAY'S RATHER LONG hike brought us down to the pleasant, unspoiled hameau of Plampinet, where we are installed in a gîte d'étape, where we eat demi-pension — again, grateful for what we get. 

What we got was, first, rémoulade with a glass of unidentified red substance. Dried tomato something? Beets, which I loathe? Dirt? No idea. Whatever it is, it's delicious, and I gobble it down — and then learn it's beets and goat cheese. "Goat cheese changes everything," the server points out. 

Afterward, peas, carrots, and chunks of turkey — again, we eat everything. Food tastes and dostastes are frivolous, born of surfeit. And then a not very good mousse au chocolat, which seemed as good as any I've ever tasted. (Except my wife's.)

• Auberge la Cleiade, Plampinet, France